For a pucca Bombay boy, few breakfasts rival qeema pau (minced mutton and bread) as dished up in restaurants frequented by cabbies, truck drivers, local and visiting thugs, pushers, users and blue-collar comrades; and at my favourite brekkie joint in town, Olympia Coffee House, smack bang next to Colaba Police Station, where cops in mufti outnumber the rest of patrons; probably the safest restaurant in the world.
This is the qeema God probably begins his day with; it’s that divine. A few ounces of minced mutton floating in a spicy-tangy green gravy (Bambaiya linguists, is gravy referred to as ‘turri?’); to a side, a tiny stainless steel plate containing onion slices, twice-quartered lime and fiery green chilles; another s. steel plate bears slices of freshly baked bread.
Start by squeezing lime juice over mince; stir with finger; dab a piece of bread in gravy; scoop mince; transfer to mouth; by the third bite, add a tiny portion of onion and take a small bite of g. chili; chew thoroughly like your mamma taught you to; bingo!; you’re in heaven having a tete-a-tete with The Maker about the whereabouts of Mr. Mojo Risin’; asking whether Elvis is really in the building and, most importantly, where has He stashed Angelina Jolie’s mould?
Goddamit! I’ve been out of Bombay for close to three months, so you can imagine my need for a qeema fix. I’ve made qeema before but never ever like Olympia makes it. About time, I figured. I must have got it right, for fellow Batcave inmate, Ross, stumbled into the kitchen yet deep in sleep and muttered that he could smell what felt like ‘apunka Bambai ka qeema.’
750 gms minced beef (we don’t get mutton here; only lamb; anyway, us Goan buggers be big beef eaters, men)
1 meduim onion, sliced fine
1 garlic clove, cut fine
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
1 and 1/2 cup peas
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Green masala (grind in advance or while qeema cooks):
1 bunch fresh coriander
2 green chillies
1 small onion
1 tsp garam masala
Fry onion till translucent.
Next garlic, ditto garam masala (not for too long; close to a minute).
Then fry the qeema till brown.
Put in enough water to cover the qeema.
Let it cook on simmer for one hour.
Then add the green masala, peas, cumin and chili powder and salt to taste.
Cover and cook for ten minutes on a medium flame.
Add coconut milk, if using.
Now cook till the water almost dries up.
Let it rest for a few minutes.
Then, these words I’ve learned from a servicing bloke, Ramnik, when I was doing time at Trikaya Grey: Toot pado havas ke bhuke kutto jaise*!
* Fall on it like hungry, lust-seeking dogs.